COUP: Army leaders arrested after failed attempt in Bolivia

Two Bolivian army leaders were arrested Wednesday after soldiers and tanks took up position in front of government buildings in what President Luis Arce called an attempted coup.

The troops and tanks entered Plaza Murillo, a historic square where the presidency and Congress are situated, in the afternoon, prompting global condemnation of an attack on democracy.

One of the tanks tried to break down a metal door of the presidential palace.

Surrounded by soldiers and eight tanks, the now-dismissed army chief General Juan Jose Zuniga said the “armed forces intend to restructure democracy, to make it a true democracy and not one run by the same few people for 30, 40 years.”

AFP reporters saw soldiers and tanks pulling back from the square shortly after. The uprising lasted about five hours.

Zuniga was captured and forced into a police car as he addressed reporters outside a military barracks later on Wednesday, footage on state television showed.

“General, you are under arrest,” Deputy Interior Minister Jhonny Aguilera told Zuniga.

A second senior military officer Juan Arnez Salvador, who was head of the Bolivian navy, was also arrested Wednesday night.

Salvador’s arrest was announced by Interior Minister Eduardo del Castillo, who said that Zuniga and Arnez are “two military coup leaders who tried to destroy democracy and the institutionality of our country and failed.”

Speaking from a balcony of the government palace, Arce told hundreds of supporters that “No one can take away the democracy we have won.”

He had urged “the Bolivian people to organize and mobilize against the coup d’etat in favor of democracy,” in an earlier televised message to the country alongside his ministers inside the presidential palace.

He fired Zuniga and Salvador and swore in a new set of military leaders.

Antonio Guterres was “deeply concerned” by events in Bolivia and called on all actors, including the military, to “protect the constitutional order and to preserve a climate of peace”, his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

Condemnations of the troop movements also poured in from across Latin America, with leaders of Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela calling for democracy to be respected.

Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva wrote on X: “I am a lover of democracy and I want it to prevail throughout Latin America. We condemn any form of coup d’etat in Bolivia.”

The Organisation of American States (OAS) said the international community would “not tolerate any form of breach of the legitimate constitutional order in Bolivia.”

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